77,000 motorbike racing fans converged on the track at Le Castellet, 35 km from Marseille for the Bol d’Or endurance motorbike race in September 2015. Bol d’Or translates as Gold Bowl, the race started at 3pm on the Saturday and continued thorugh the night with teams of three or four riders piloting the single bike of roughly WSB class (World Superbike).
The Bol d'Or festival started on the Thursday evening and continued to Sunday evening with a kermesse - a fun fair and stalls selling and biking stuff or promoting clubs. The track schedule included race practice and qualifying sessions, an endurance race for classic bikes and an 800cc class for street race style bikes, the three hour Bol d’Argent (Silver Bowl).
The overwhelming impression of the festival was of being with other bikers; motorbiking is a relatively solitary sport as the rider rides alone, even with a pillion it’s only the two of us. And there’s the not-unjustified paranoia that the rest of the world is out to get the biker. So being in a festival with 77,000 other bikers is a huge reversal. You could talk about affirmation, renewal and validation but fundamentally it was simply a very pleasant feeling. No matter running the gauntlet of the police controls on the roads approaching the track, no matter the almost unmentionable site toilets and showers. Even the holigans on the camp site were biker hooligans and so part of the “family”.
The races on the track were hard or almost impossible to follow in detail due to the absence of timing screens available to the public, an amazing lack of information and technology for 2015.
But the first running of the Bol d’Or back in the sunshine and pine trees of Provence was a huge success after many years in the muddy fields of Nevers Magny-Cours, in the Loire valley about 270km/150miles south of Paris.